The Poverty Complex

Via Flickr by user Arturo Avila. Used under Creative Commons License.

Greedy people may be slaves to money — that’s an easy enough concept to grasp. So that means that poor people aren’t slaves, right?

Maybe not.

True, Jesus said more than once that poor people are blessed. But that doesn’t mean that poverty is God’s desired state for His people (the Bible is full of evidence to the contrary). And when you look at people whose lives are marked by poverty, you’ll likely find evidence of plenty of slavery: addictions, depression, domestic violence, etc.

Confused yet? I think that what makes this so tricky is that we have a bunch of terms confused into one idea. We tend to think that all poor people are in poverty; to put it another way, we believe that scarcity and poverty are the same. But biblically, poverty and scarcity are worlds apart.

Scarcity is a set of circumstances. Some people chose scarcity, but many millions more around the world are born into it. Scarcity can come because of a lack of natural resources, a corrupt government, war or a host of other factors. In the Old Testament, scarcity was often caused by famine or other acts of God. Even God’s people, the Israelites, were not immune from the scarcity that came as a result of God’s will.

Poverty, on the other hand, isn’t about resources. Poverty is an attitude, and a series of results from the bad choices that we make. Warnings throughout the book of Proverbs make this clear: Poverty comes from laziness, a lack of discipline, empty words and selfishness.

What this tells us is that poverty results from the heart. It comes regardless of resources. We’ve all heard stories of dynamic Christian ministers in the Third World who manage to be diligent, caring and generous spirit, despite the scarcity of their surroundings. We’ve also all known people in the United States — the wealthiest civilization in the history of man — who live lives of poverty. Poverty is a disease of the heart, mind and spirit. And when it gets its grip on you, poverty can make you a slave.

The signs of poverty slavery may not show up as easily as the signs of greed, but once you learn to see them, they become painfully obvious. Poverty causes people to have a pessimistic outlook on life: They begin to believe that they’ll never get ahead in life, that they’ll never have enough. As a result, when they do come into some money, they are prone to blow it quickly on frivolous things, because “you only live once.” Spending big on a night of revelry helps to ease the pain of poverty… but only for one night. Come morning, they wake up and find themselves back in the pit. The cycle often repeats itself from generation to generation, casting whole families into a spiritual slavery.

For Christians, poverty may not lead to misbehavior in the name of good times. But a poverty mentality strips us of the generosity that God wants us to practice. You can’t give if you don’t have any money. And when we don’t tithe, and don’t give, the work of the Kingdom suffers. God’s people become unable to do God’s work, because they can’t provide for their families in the process.

By sneaking a spirit of poverty into our lives, the enemy slips chains around our necks, sabotaging the Kingdom by subordinating its people. By drawing unsaved people into poverty, he strips poor souls of their hope, and adds heavy burdens around their necks. Poverty, it seems, is a slave driver too.

Up next: The borrower is slave to the lender



  1. It seems to me that the thought life of greedy or poor people can also show the nature of slavery involved. The bible tells us in Colassians 3 that we are to set our hearts/minds/thoughts on things above. On kingdom things. On Godly things. Greed and poverty always push us into thinking about money.


  1. […] Post navigation ← Previous Next → […]

  2. […] easy to find evidence of how the world’s financial thinking can lead to greed, poverty, debt and slavery. So what’s the alternative? Well, God has a plan for your finances. And […]

  3. […] The Bible has a lot more to say about work, and the role that it plays in our financial success. Proverbs makes many points about diligence (hard work applied faithfully over time). God tells us that diligence brings wealth; that diligent planning leads to prosperity; and that diligence can propel us to the top in life. Laziness, on the other hand, always leads to poverty. […]

  4. […] But if you let money define you, bad things will happen. If you see yourself as a big-shot because of your big bank account, you risk turning into a greedy hooligan that nobody really wants to be around. If you see yourself as a nobody because you don’t don’t have much cash or many fancy things, you’re headed into a dangerous poverty mentality. […]

  5. […] in to debt, become greedy, develop stingy hearts, or live our lives in a psychological state of poverty. Sometimes, that slavery creeps in via false ideas and wrong attitudes: We compare ourselves to […]

  6. […] This attitude takes us to a pretty bleak place. At best, we get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. At worst, we can develop a full-blown poverty mentality. […]

  7. […] In sneaky and pernicious ways, money takes hold of our hearts, making us captives to greed, debt, poverty, insecurity and other bondage. If we’re not careful, we can wake up one day to find that […]

  8. […] from our families don’t always do us a lot of favors. Too many Americans get caught in poverty, overspending, debt, envy and other poisonous practices because that’s what they saw their […]

  9. […] ways that money can make slaves of us. Some of them are obvious. like greed, selfishness, envy and poverty. Others are more subtle, like false identity and  sinful motivations. But perhaps the most […]

  10. […] Thankfulness is also a great remedy for many of the wrong financial attitudes that can bind us up in slavery. A thankful heart isn’t stingy, greedy or envious. Thankfulness is the antidote to discontentment, and  frees us from false identity, false motivations and a false poverty mentality. […]

  11. […] thing. Though we think of poverty as a lack of money and resources, it’s much more than that. Poverty is a form of financial slavery. It’s an attitude and a mindset that can be passed from parents to children, trapping entire […]

  12. […] Poverty is a type of spiritual and financial slavery, a condition that God never intended us to live in. We know this because of many things that He tells us in scripture. There are a lot of different ways that we could study this in the Bible, but for today I’ve chosen a simple passage from Deuteronomy 15:4-6 that spells the idea out pretty clearly: […]

  13. […] continued stress or fear in your life, you’re likely dealing with an issue such as debt, poverty mentality, or undisciplined spending. Dealing with these underlying issues will help you eliminate your […]

  14. […] has an overwhelming capacity for making slaves of us. Some people are slaves to greed, envy, or poverty. Other times the slavery is more subtle: We can be slaves to our jobs, slaves to other […]

  15. […] that is very easy to fall into, and it happens in more ways then you might think. Yes, debt and poverty are obvious examples of financial slavery, but money can creep into our hearts and minds and take […]

  16. […] Oftentimes, this happens without us being aware of it. We can become slaves to greed, slaves to poverty, slaves to debt and even slaves to other people’s expectations regarding our […]

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